When our tour guide in London said “Ah yes, and to your left is Fortnum and Mason, where the queen does her grocery shopping,” I saw my foodie husband’s ears perk up and knew we’d be spending the afternoon there. Man, am I glad we did! Though this may not be somewhere you’re inclined to spend hours at during your first trip to London (so many other sights to see!), it is the perfect, relaxing afternoon for lovers of food, tea, fine china, and amazingly expensive lingerie (the queen has excellent taste!).
As we stepped through the pistachio and gold doors near Piccadilly Circus, I knew we were entering into a veritable “foodie paradise.” The first floor was a maze of fine teas, coffees, candied fruit, and chocolate. I could have spent an hour examining all of the varieties of tea alone. Eventually we wound our way down to the bottom floor where we found a vast collection of cheeses, pâtés, truffles, fois gras, (my husband was quite literally drooling), fresh fruits and flowers, marmalades, honey, biscuits, olives…
A feast for the eyes and a temptation for the taste buds, to be sure. So much so that, at one point our shopping basket was completely full when reality struck- there was no way we could get all of this back to the U.S. the next day. So, we carefully selected some lovely dry goods to bring home for family and friends (my grandma is still drinking her Earl Grey 9 months later and absolutely loving it).
While my husband lingered in his culinary heaven, I ventured up to the 3-5th floors, through the jungle of pashminas, haberdashery, and perfumes. I tried on luxurious silk kimonos, eyed sparkling gold necklaces, and sniffed seductive bath salts. As I spiraled my way back down the staircase, I found my husband at the register, spending more British pounds than I’d care to know on a lovely bunch of candied fruit (which we thoroughly enjoyed!).
Fortnum and Mason is also known for its “hampers,” large picnic baskets or signature Fortnum and Mason green boxes full of gourmet goods. Shoppers can choose from combinations such as “The Teatime Hamper,” “The Taste of Spring Hamper,” or “The Taste of Fortnum’s Hamper.” International clients can order these online- what a lovely and unexpected gift idea.
Of course, no visit to Fortnum and Mason would be complete without having high tea, a British ritual. The prices for traditional scones, cakes and sandwiches (and of course tea or coffee) are quite reasonable. You’ll feel downright royal, well, civilized at the very least.